God’s Perfect Timing*

By Karissa Uhlig

Sometimes in life, we have time to research decisions carefully before making them. Other times, we have a split second to make a decision, important though it may be. Jonathan Frederwitz, a JAARS-trained pilot in Papua New Guinea, is intimately familiar with this fact. Recently, the Gizrra language group was preparing to dedicate their New Testament, and Jonathan’s task was to transport a load of New Testaments to Daru for the dedication. On the way back, he would stop off at Bosavi and pick up three Kaluli men—Yalibi, Heli, and Sidawo–and take them to the mission center in Ukarumpa. The Kaluli church leaders had selected these men to be consultants for the translation of 2 Peter, Jude, and a part of Genesis.

Boxes of Gizrra New Testaments wrapped in tarps to protect them against salt water spray during boat travel down the coast to their final destination. Photo shared by Jonathan Federwitz

Yalibi and Heli were waiting in Bosavi as expected. However, Sidawo was nowhere to be found. Jonathan found out that Sidawo was unable to make the long walk to the airport. Jonathan considered leaving without him; time was of the essence. Darkness and possible bad weather, expected in approximately three hours, would prevent Jonathan from taking off. But when he radioed the mission center, the translation project advisor, Andy Grosh, emphasized that one Kaluli translator and two individuals who had not previously worked with the translation were necessary to ensure the translation was effective. The men who were not translators could field the comprehension questions that the translation team was sure to bring up.

When Jonathan and Andy discussed possible candidates to take Sidawo’s place, Usu became the top choice. Andy believed that Usu would be a willing volunteer, and he lived near the airstrip! And … God put the right people in the right place at the right time. Heli, one of the men who was traveling to Ukarumpa, had seen Usu earlier that day and knew exactly where he was! Heli had passed Usu and his wife while the couple were on their way to gather sago to share at an upcoming pastors’ meeting. Jonathan sent a young girl to run and find Usu and ask him if he would be willing to go to Ukarumpa in place of Sidawo at short notice!

 Upon hearing the message and talking the decision over with his wife, Usu ran directly from the sago swamp to the airstrip, without even stopping at his house along the way. As soon as Usu arrived at the airstrip, Jonathan loaded him into the plane with Yalibi and Heli and took off for the flight to the mission center. Jonathan said, “I love flying all the time. But the reason that I’m here is to support Bible translation, and it’s always extra special to see the fruit of these teams that have worked many, many years to get to this point.” 


Jonathan with his three passengers, Yalibi, Heli, and Usu. Photo shared by Jonathan Federwitz
Andy, Usu, Heli, and Yalibi hold portions of translated Scripture checked and ready to distribute. Photo credit Sylvia Grosh

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*Based on information provided by Jonathan Federwitz and Andy Grosh for the February 2021 Centerline article “Traveling Light”